THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 12, October, 1948
(Pages 539-543; Size: 14K)
(Number 6 of a 15-part series)

MIND OF THE AGE

VI: THE SUSCEPTIBILITY TO FASCISM

IT is especially easy to view sympathetically the diligent efforts of Freud and other pioneers who attempted to analyze the field of "abnormal psychology," when one perceives that the rapid growth of severe emotional disturbances challenges the modern world on every hand and at every moment. Such a book as Harold Maine's If a Man Be Mad, reviewed extensively in recent issues of the magazine THEOSOPHY, is but one of many means of grasping the gravity of our mental confusion. Maine's successful recovery from delusions and hallucination was accompanied by his growing awareness of the fact that not alone each fellow inmate, but the whole of institutional society, exhibited similar indices of mental unbalance.

In Theosophical terms, the present psychic maelstrom is analogous to the physiological maladies occasioned by the persistent indulgence of an improper diet; the damaging results may not be immediately perceptible, yet over a period of years they manifest with violent and unsuspected fury, and are destructive not only to a particular organ but also to the efficient action of the total organism. Our collective diseases are akin to our emotional illnesses as individuals, and the more virulent political diseases become, the more clearly may the connection be seen. For instance, and as previously suggested, while specific theological dogmas no longer compel men to fear church dictatorship after the medieval manner, we retain both the tendency to fear and many specific anxieties and confusions which are logical heirs to the doctrine of "original sin," of "the chosen and the damned," and of the irrationality of the religious version of cosmic processes. We are susceptible, in our personal lives, to paranoia -- delusions of persecution and of greatness -- and to schizophrenia -- escape from reality, usually by hallucinations. Our susceptibility to Fascism and other forms of national irrationality is but a further reflection of personal confusion. The denial of the Rights of Philosophy leads inevitably to denial of the Rights of Man. Our delusions have multiplied, and then consolidated in many undesirable national habits.

A United States Army officer on wartime duty in India as an officer in the Division of Psychological Warfare suddenly realized he had a fine opportunity to view American and British culture with the sort of dispassion claimed by the modern psychiatrist. India is the proper setting for such an attempt, the American officer felt, for the major premises of the Indian cultural tradition are not only markedly different, but also often superior to Western concepts and culture. The resulting book, Edmond Taylor's Richer by Asia (Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1947), is an incomparable gift to an as-yet-unborn "Science of Psychotherapy for Nations." In developing his various theses, Mr. Taylor makes a valuable contribution to the terminology of social analysis by giving the label "institutional delusion" to much of our social confusion. He correctly traces our "institutional delusions" to individual attitudes of mind, and links our susceptibility to Fascism with our failure to comprehend, as a Christian culture, the profundity of eastern Pantheism.

Mr. Taylor was first introduced to formal religion through family Catholicism, but his present viewpoint, made "richer by Asia," leads him to question all of the values habitually fostered by powerful church organizations. The neuroses of nations -- cancerous suspicions and fears -- are encouraged rather than allayed by church versions of Christian tradition. Had Mr. Taylor chosen to conduct his inquiry further into the theological realm, we would probably find him consistent in asserting that the fear of one's own inadequacy as encouraged by the notion of original sin leads directly to paranoid tendencies in individuals and to the vast paranoia known as Fascism.

To begin by viewing any essential portion of man as evil and degraded is to end by treating other beings with suspicion, -- for we keep looking for the "evil" to appear and harm us. Also, when the suspicious attitude is uppermost, we seek to dominate others rather than to understand them. As men and women, we have sought to possess each other through the peculiar forms of domination encouraged by a warped version of the institution of marriage. (The campaign for women's suffrage was an Herculean -- or Amazonian -- task.) As political beings, we also seek to gather the power which will allow us to dominate, rather than the power which brings understanding -- and with it social and political harmony. An institution is a consolidation of power. So long as we are fearful and distrustful beings, we will both fear and make obeisance to whatever institution looms before us -- unless, of course, we have learned through the promptings of an inner voice that moral man may stand alone in his courage and resourcefulness, whenever he wishes. And after our fears have allowed dangerous institutions to form, we are further "conditioned" into perpetual psychic subservience by them.

William C. Menninger, viewing "The Role of Psychiatry in the World Today" (American Journal of Psychiatry, September, 1947), contrasts the psychiatrist's job in civilian life with his job in combat, and finds that the effect of the institution of war, especially the "pathological outpouring of aggression and destructiveness," might well be regarded as a psychosis, a definite mental disease. His experience in the armed services and in present postwar practice prompts him to an evaluation of wartime America similar to Mr. Taylor's. In civilian life, Dr. Menninger states, the psychiatrist--

attempted to understand and treat the abnormal reactions of persons to normal situations. In military life he attempted to understand and treat the normal reactions to an abnormal situation. One might seriously question if our world condition does not now place many of us in a continuously abnormal situation to which are having normal reactions, even though these by all previous standards are pathological. To such a turbulent world, one might legitimately ask, what is a normal reaction?
A new college text, The Psychology of Behavior Disorders, A Biosocial Interpretation, by Norman Cameron, furnishes another link in the chain which establishes a clear connection between our "institutional delusions" and our private delusions and unbalances. We are, almost to a man, strongly affected by a vast anxiety neurosis, which manifests periodically in terms of aggressiveness, in deeds of self-degradation, escapism, or through temporary delusions of grandeur by which we make feeble attempts to justify our existences.

The root of any type of fascism, whether it be called "Nazism," "Communism" or "Military Conscription for Democracy," is the human proclivity for alternating between fear and ambition. The ambition to dominate in government circles is usually the inception of fascism, and that which compels acceptance of the program is the average-citizen-fear of the institutional power wielded by the prevailing government. The most terrifying example of this particular form of power was offered by the Nazi concentration camps. The Nazi leaders' ambition to consolidate sufficient power to allow domination of Europe led to various paranoid reactions of extreme hate and aggressiveness against all political opponents, both imaginary and real. The Jewish people of Germany became, in the imagination of some Germans, the enemies of the German people, and were treated by the Nazis in as bad if not in worse fashion than avowed and determined political opponents. When the concentration camps were established and the whole of Germany held in the death-grip of conscription, many average men served as attendants in these camps because of a dominating fear of the consequences which a refusal might bring. And all over the world a great many men accepted service in one or another army for this same reason. Later, when some of the concentration camps became "death camps," there were innumerable cases of secondhand brutality, that is, brutality by command rather than by individual design or desire. The petty officers of these camps were prompted by fear of State Power to implement a policy of inhumanity, and this through a susceptibility to the same emotional states which allow individuals everywhere in their private lives to indulge first in fears or suspicions and then in release of anxiety through brutality of word or deed.

The primary knowledge we need today is that which will convince us that our conventional ideas on theology, personal relations between the sexes, and our politics are all intimately related. Next, we must know precisely why they are connected, and what are the persistent threads of delusion running through them all. The student of Theosophy has a unique opportunity to acquire this sort of wisdom, for he can view the mind of this age in contrast with the principles upheld by other and older societies better qualified for preservation than our own, and by those unique individuals who, in troubled centuries, have found courage, calmness, and integrity despite the emotional disturbances of the times in which they lived. It may be that such a student will discover, too, the impossibility of solving a single one of the great problems -- caused by differences of religious belief, by the warfare of affection and passion, or by political ambition -- without solving, simultaneously, some portion of the others. We fight these three major battles together constantly, whether we are aware of it or not, both in our own lives and in trying to build a better society. It is not merely helpful, but it is a condition of success in the struggle, to be able to evaluate correctly the contending forces and to know the precise nature of the alliances which sustain the opposition.


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

SOURCE OF SYMPATHY

Question--Is sympathy a quality of Kama? If not, of what principle is it a part? Should it be indulged to the extent of having one's enjoyment of a pleasure almost destroyed because so many who would like to enjoy it cannot from want of money?

Answer--Sympathy comes from kama sometimes, and sometimes is derived from other parts of our constitution. It is often a disease with unintelligent persons, or in those who have not disciplined their minds and do not use their judgment or whose judgment is deficient. But sympathy in its highest aspect must flow from the spiritual part of our nature. However, I think that in its ordinary exhibition it is derived from the principle of desire acting with the mind, the memory, and the sensations. Very often it is false; but true sympathy can never be false, and no matter what principle in our nature it arises from, being a noble and healthful thing, it should be exercised, always however with judgment.

It would certainly be folly to allow our sympathies to carry us so away that we are plunged ourselves into needless sorrow, for in such case we will lose power to judge how to be able to act for the benefit of others. The mere fact that others have no money is not in itself a proper cause for arousing sympathy. The want of money is not the cause of trouble, but the desire for money is. We may sympathize with others who have no money, but not because they are deficient in that means; it should be on account of their failure to see that within themselves is the realization of happiness, and that in fact they should not depend upon anything outside for true enjoyment. --William Q. Judge. 


The Theosophical Forum, September, 1893.

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MIND OF THE AGE
VII: CONCENTRATION-CAMP PSYCHOLOGY
(Part 7 of a 15-part series)

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